Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably seen Nathan Durfee’s art around Charleston. It may have been within the pages of the City Paper or Charleston Magazine, or hanging on the walls of Theatre 99, Redux, or Modernisme. Durfee describes his work as “lowbrow and accessible.” It’s also imaginative, vibrant, and distinctive, making Durfee one of the most sought-after artists in town.
Durfee, 24, developed an interest in art at a young age. “It mainly stemmed from being bored in class and sketching in my notebooks,” he says. The Vermont native went on to study at the Savannah College of Art and Design where his initial focus on portraiture changed to illustrating, thanks to the influence of several professors. “I just fell in love with stylization and colorful characters,” he explains — something that’s clearly seen in his playful works.
He describes his work as “a dialogue between myself and the paint strokes … Things that I see in everyday life — children, flowers — it all becomes backlogged in my head and then when I’m staring at the canvas I attack each idea individually.”
Durfee relocated to Charleston in 2006 and quickly established himself in the arts scene. Along with illustrating for local publications (including this week’s cover), he’s shown at several of the city’s more contemporary art venues. Starting Sept. 8, he’ll be showing at Modernisme’s anniversary exhibition, iShow: You are Where and on Nov. 3, he’ll debut his first solo exhibit at the same gallery. He’s also working on illustrating a new album by local musician Leah Suarez. And if you’ve checked out the Ben Silver catalog recently, you’ve got Durfee to thank for the bright photographs of colorful polos and ties — his nine-to-five job is color specialist for the classic clothing company.
Durfee is excited about Charleston’s growth toward becoming a more viable arts community, and the niche he’s creating within it. “I love Charleston and my work has been received pretty well here, so I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon,” he says. “I’m enjoying the South a little too much to think about moving back up North.” — Erica Jackson